The BEST Lowfat Spinach Dip

23 Sep

This is a delicious and easy spinach dip recipe I have been making for years. I tweaked the recipe on the back of the Knorr package to make it my own. Also, instead of using bread or crackers to dip, consider using crunchy vegetables, like cucumbers, carrots, and celery. Have a great weekend and stay healthy!


Serves: 4-6

Makes 4 cups

  • 1 (10 ounce) package baby spinach, chopped or 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (use paper towels and get as much of the water out as you can.)
  • 1.5 (24 ounces) containers low fat sour cream
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (8 ounce) package Knorr vegetable soup mix
  • 1 (8 ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and chopped (optional)
  • 3 green onions, chopped (optional)


  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Cover and chill in the refrigerator about 2 hours.
  3. Serve with your favorite dippers to your favorite people.
  4. A new serving idea: Hollow out cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes.
  5. Fill vegetables with Knorr® Spinach Dip and garnish with a sprig of dill

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Ready for a Tighter Core??

22 Sep

Sand N Sea Fitness Studio just purchased 25 NEW Bender Balls last week at the Fit Fest San Jose fitness convention. What does that mean for you??  More intense and targeted exercises for your core!!  The Bender Ball gives you a workout that’s up to 408% more effective than ordinary crunches. So you can sculpt beautiful abs fast!!

Here a sampling of exercises we will be doing with the Bender Ball.  The possibilities are endless.


Things You’ll Need

  • Yoga or Pilates mat
  • Bender Ball


  • 1 Sit in the middle of your mat with your knees bent. Place your feet flat on  the mat, hip distance apart.
  • 2 Lean backwards onto the Bender Ball, keeping your feet firmly planted on the  mat. The placement of the ball determines how much range of motion you will move  through during the crunches. If you are a beginner, place the ball between your  shoulder blades. For a greater range of motion, advanced individuals may place  the ball in the curve of their lower backs.
  • 3 Exhale as you curl your upper body. As you contract your abdominal muscles,  imagine your belly button moving towards your spine. Curl up as far as you can  while keeping your back in contact with the ball and your feet in contact with  the floor.
  • 4 Inhale as you return to the starting position. Repeat the sequence 10  times.

Oblique Crunches

  • 1 Sit on your exercise mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip  distance apart. Place your hands on the side of your head, near your ears.  Position your Bender Ball just above your buttocks, in the curve of your lower  back.
  • 2 Inhale as you lean back onto the ball, keeping both feet on the mat. Then, as  you exhale, curl your torso upwards and diagonally to the right while  simultaneously lifting the right knee. This movement brings your left elbow  towards your right knee.
  • 3 Inhale as you return to the starting position. Exhale as you bring your torso  diagonally to the left and lift your left knee. Move your right elbow toward  your left knee. Repeat 10 times. This exercise works the oblique muscles located  on the sides of your abdomen.

Frog Kicks

  • 1 Lay flat on your back on your yoga mat and place your Bender Ball between  your feet.
  • 2 Engage your abdominal muscles so that your lower back is in contact with the  mat. Keep these muscles engaged throughout the entire exercise. Do not allow  your lower back to arch.
  • 3 Straighten your legs and lift them directly above your hips. Slowly bend and  straighten your legs. As you straighten your legs, you work your quadriceps. In  order to keep the ball from slipping, constantly squeeze the ball with your  feet. This squeezing action activates your adductor muscles, located in your  inner thighs. Perform 10 repetitions, inhaling as you bend your legs and  exhaling as you straighten them.


My Favorite Low Fat Dessert

14 Sep

My awesome sister introduced me to this easy no-bake dessert and it’s been the hit at quite a few dinner parties.   Try experimenting with different yogurt flavors and please share your ideas with us.  I recently tried pina colada yogurt, which was very tasty!  Enjoy!


1 graham cracker pie crust (homemade or store-bought)

2 containers fruit yogurt (strawberry is especially good)

1 (8 oz.) Cool Whip, thawed

1 sm. pkg. frozen fruit (sliced strawberries), thawed


Combine thawed Cool Whip, fruit, and yogurt in a large bowl. Pour into prepared pie shell. Smooth out to edges. Cover and freeze for 3 hours. Before serving, put in refrigerator for 1/2 to 1 hour. Slice and serve. Garnish with fresh strawberries, if available. Also try raspberry, blueberry, or other fruit flavors.

Focus On Flexiblity

10 Sep

You can stretch anytime, anywhere. Just follow these tips to do it safely and effectively.

By Mayo Clinic staff

Stretching may take a back seat to your exercise routine. You may think that stretching your hamstrings and calves is just something to be done if you have a few extra minutes before or after pounding out some miles on the treadmill. The main concern is exercising, not stretching, right?

Not so fast. Although studies about the benefits of stretching are mixed, stretching may help you improve your flexibility, which in turn may improve your athletic performance and decrease your risk of injury. Understand why stretching can help and how to stretch correctly.

Benefits of stretching

Studies about the benefits of stretching have had mixed results. Some show that stretching helps, while others show that stretching has little if any benefit. The main benefits of stretching are thought to be: Improving athletic performance
Decreasing the risk of activity-based injuries

Stretching can help improve flexibility. And better flexibility may improve your performance in physical activities or decrease your risk of injuries by helping your joints move through their full range of motion. For instance, say your Achilles tendon is tight and lacks flexibility. If you do a lot of hill walking, your foot may not move through its full range of motion. Over time, this can increase your risk of tendinitis or tendinopathy in your Achilles tendon. Stretching your Achilles tendon, though, may improve the range of motion in your ankle. This, in turn, can decrease the risk of microtrauma to your tendon that can lead to overload and injury.

Stretching also increases blood flow to the muscle. And you may come to enjoy the ritual of stretching before or better yet, after hitting the trail, ballet floor or soccer field.

Before you plunge into stretching, make sure you do it safely and effectively. While you can stretch anytime, anywhere in your home, at work, in a hotel room or at the park you want to be sure to use proper technique. Stretching incorrectly can actually do more harm than good.

Use these tips to keep stretching safe:

Don’t consider stretching during a warm-up. You may hurt yourself if you stretch cold muscles. So before stretching, warm up with light walking, jogging or biking at low intensity for five to 10 minutes. Or better yet, stretch after you exercise when your muscles are warmed up. Also, consider holding off on stretching before an intense activity, such as sprinting or track and field activities. Some research suggests that pre-event stretching before these types of events may actually decrease performance.

Focus on major muscle groups. When you’re stretching, focus on your calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. Also stretch muscles and joints that you routinely use at work or play. And make sure that you stretch both sides. For instance, if you stretch your left hamstring, be sure to stretch your right hamstring, too.

Don’t bounce. Bouncing as you stretch can cause small tears in the muscle. These tears leave scar tissue as the muscle heals, which tightens the muscle even further, making you less flexible and more prone to pain. So, hold each stretch for about 30 seconds. Repeat each stretch three or four times.

Don’t aim for pain. Expect to feel tension while you’re stretching, not pain. If it hurts, you’ve pushed too far. Back off to the point where you don’t feel any pain, then hold the stretch.

Make stretches sport specific. Some evidence suggests that it’s helpful to do stretches tailored for your sport or activity. If you play soccer, for instance, you’re more vulnerable to hamstring strains. So opt for stretches that help your hamstrings.

Keep up with your stretching. Stretching can be time-consuming. But you can achieve the best benefits by stretching regularly, at least two to three times a week. If you don’t stretch regularly, you risk losing any benefits that stretching offered. For instance, if stretching helped you increase your range of motion, and you stop stretching, your range of motion may decrease again.

Bring movement into your stretching. Gentle movement can help you be more flexible in specific movements. The gentle movements of tai chi, for instance, may be a good way to stretch. And if you’re going to perform a specific activity, such as a front kick in martial arts, do the move slowly and at low intensity at first to get your muscles used to it. Then speed up gradually as your muscles become accustomed to the motion.

Know when to exercise caution

In some cases, you may need to approach stretching with caution. If you have a chronic condition or an injury, you may need to adjust your stretching techniques. For example, if you already have a strained muscle, stretching it may cause further harm.

Also, don’t think that because you stretch you can’t get injured. Stretching, for instance, won’t prevent an overuse injury. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about the best way to stretch if you have any health concerns.

If you have any questions about stretching or anything else related to health and fitness, feel free to contact me. We incorporate stretching into all of our training sessions and classes, so come check us out and get a total body workout!


TABATA Training!!

1 Sep

What is this crazy new TABATA training all about?   It is turning into my favorite type of workout, especially if you do not have a lot of time to workout.  If that is you, read on and get a quick workout that will give you RESULTS and kick your booty!

What if I told you that you could get all the fat burning benefits of an hour-long cardio session in just 4 minutes?  What’s the downside?  You have to exercise harder and more intensely than you ever have before.  Still with me?  Then I’d like to introduce you to the Tabata protocol.

The Tabata protocol is named after Izumi Tabata, a former researcher at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Japan.  Tabata evaluated a high intensity interval training routine developed by the coach of the Japanese speed skating team.  The routine involves maximal effort sprinting for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest.  This is repeated for 8 sets for a total of 4 minutes.

During the speed skating study, men who performed the routine five days a week for six weeks improved their maximum aerobic capacity by 14%.  Aerobic capacity is the measurement of the body’s ability to take in oxygen.   The more oxygen a person can take in, the longer and harder a person can run.   The aerobic energy system will burn fuel.  Once your muscles have enough oxygen, the anaerobic system begins to work for you.  This is where you want to be.  In order to do this, you must get your heart rate up past the target heart rate zone.  IMPORTANT:  Use a heart rate monitor to measure your heart rate during your Tabata workout routine.

Not only did it improve their aerobic capacity, but it also improved their anaerobic capacity by 28%.  Anaerobic capacity is the measurement of your speed endurance.  The anaerobic system is your endurance.  You will need to gradually build this up.  Therefore, it is important to understand that just because the actual Tabata training calls for a specific amount of reps, you will need to build up to these reps.

Fat Burning Effects

Most people think they need to stay on the treadmill or elliptical for at least 20 minutes before any fat burning begins.  What makes this 4 minute routine so effective?  The short high intensity intervals result in a significant “after burn effect” in which your body continues burning calories for hours after you complete the workout.  This happens because you burn off all your glycogen (carbs) during the workout leaving only fat for your body to burn.  Additionally, the Tabata protocol has been shown to increase aerobic and anaerobic capacity while moderate intensity cardio only increases aerobic capacity.

Workout Flexibility

One great feature of the Tabata protocol is that it can be used on any number of exercises.  You can perform these high intensity intervals using cardio exercises, exercises using resistance (weights, tubing, etc.), and bodyweight exercises.  Do as many reps as you can in 20 seconds.  Take a brief 10 second rest and begin again.  Go light if you’re using weights because this requires a grueling effort.

Don’t let the Short Tabata Intervals fool you

While the short Tabata intervals may be the reason you have chosen this type interval training, do not be fooled into thinking this is an easy exercise routine.  This could not be farther from the truth.  It is important to understand that during the high intensity portions of the Tabata training, you will be working the hardest you have ever worked.  The goal is to “honestly” do as many reps of a specific movement as you can during the high intensity portion of the routine.    Know that the more Tabata intervals you do, the harder they are to complete.

When you are doing the workout, do not give up!  If you are through 3, 4, or 5 intervals just remind yourself there are only a few intervals left and push yourself hard!  You will not regret the results!

Introducing:  The Original Tabata Protocol

Here is the original Tabata protocol:

  • Five minute warm-up
  • 8 intervals of 20 second high intensity workout followed by 10 seconds of rest
  • Two minute cool-down

This may not seem like a great increase, but remember this Tabata workout routine can be deceiving.  The high intensity portion of the routine can be grueling.  Adding more intervals can make it that much more difficult to complete.  However, it is possible!

Beginners Beware

Beginners should NOT follow the Tabata protocol as it is described.  It is important that you do not go over your maximum heart rate.  If you have not built up your endurance, then your heart rate could soar way above what your maximum heart rate should be.   There are some places on the Internet that recommend using weights, kettle balls, or other types of resistance.  This is NOT recommended.  You will raise your heart rate enough with sprints, push ups, or riding a stationary bike.  You can add resistance once you build up your endurance.

Tabata Workout Routine for the Beginner

The best way to start off with Tabata training is to start slow.  You do not have to do all eight Tabata intervals on your first try.  In fact, it is not recommended because your heart rate would go too high if it has not been conditioned for endurance.

Sample Tabata Workout Routine for the Beginner

Tabata interval training can be done with a Stationary Bike, Versa climber, Rowing Machine, Elliptical Trainer or any other type of cardio equipment that will allow for you to gradually increase your resistance and speed.  You could use a treadmill; however, during the 10 second rest period, you will have to step onto the sides and stop completely.  This is because the machine will not slow down fast enough for the required change in intensity.  You should choose a piece of equipment that will use your large leg muscles.  You could also do Tabata squats and Tabata sprints.  Using the larger muscles will make your Tabata intervals more effective.

When starting out, you will begin with a three minute warm-up, 2 intervals of 20/10 seconds each, and a 2 minute cool-down.  Put on your heart monitor and remember to record the maximum heart rate and recovery heart rate.  A Tabata Timer is a great way to keep track of your seconds, as this is very important.  You must be accurate in keeping track of your seconds.  If you have a Smart Phone, check under your Apps for a free Tabata Timer.

Begin your warm-up at a moderate pace gradually increasing in intensity, but still remaining at a low intensity.

Here is a sample Tabata bike workout.  Begin by increasing the tension at least one notch above your warm-up.  Pedal at full speed as fast as you can for 20 seconds.  Then pedal slowly for 10 seconds.  Your heart rate should go up a little.  This will tell your body that it needs more oxygen to your energy system.  You may begin to pant.  This is your body telling you that it needs more oxygen in the lungs to fuel your energy system.

Do the second interval.   You will notice your heart rate go up a little after you begin the slow part of your Tabata intervals.

Once you have done two intervals, decrease your bike to the lowest setting.  Pedal for two minutes as a cool-down.  Once the two minutes are complete, stop pedaling completely and sit there for one minute.  After sitting there for one minute, check your heart rate and record it.  This is your recovery heart rate.

Do this beginner workout two-three times per week.  Allow one day for recovery between workouts.  This will allow your body to heal and increase the strength of your heart and lungs.

Continue to follow this Tabata protocol until your recovery heart rate goes down.  When this happens, add another interval.  The next time your recovery heart rate goes down below the previous workouts, add tension to the bike.  Continue to add intervals once the recovery heart rate goes down.

Eventually you will reach the 8 Tabata intervals and you will be on your way to ultimate health and weight loss.

5 Must-Do Butt Exercises

28 Aug

We all want a nice booty, right?

Incorporate the following best backside exercises in your regular strength routine and you’ll burn fat, shape and firm your booty, sculpt surrounding muscle groups, and rev up your metabolism.

1. Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell swings combine strength and cardio training to redefine your backside. In addition to toning your glutes and hip flexors, you’ll work your core, and cardiovascular system (an all-in-one exercise). Stand with your legs shoulder width apart. Place the kettlebell about one foot in front of you. Push your hips backward, with a slight bend in the knee (shins almost vertical) and reach forward, placing both hands on the kettlebell. From your “hike position” (hips pushed backward, back flat, and chest out) hike the kettlebell behind you, with a purpose (don’t let go). Drive your hips forward, while contracting your glutes and tucking your tailbone under, to swing the kettlebell (always above the knees) until you are standing at “attention” with your hands about chest height.

Important Tips: Always make sure to keep your abs tight (this will keep your lower back protected.) Keep your neck in line with the rest of your spine. Always drive the swing with your hips and NOT your arms. If the bell ever gets too far out in front of you, never reach for it- just let it drop!

2. Lunges

Lunges are a workout staple that will firm your butt and tone your legs. Start with your feet hip width apart then step forward with one leg. Keeping your abs tight, chest high, and spine straight, sink down into the move until your front thigh is parallel to the floor and your back knee is almost touching the ground. Concentrate on squeezing your glutes as you push through your front heel back to the starting position. Important tip: don’t let your moving knee extend past your toes.

3. Step Ups

This is a great exercise for your butt as well as your quads and calves. Step ups also increase your heart rate so you’ll get the extra benefit of fat-blasting cardio. Stand with your right foot firmly planted on a step or a bench, your left foot on the floor. Push down through your right heel to straighten and stand on your right leg, squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement. At the same time, pull your left leg forward and up, knee bent 90 degrees and raised waist-high. Lower your left leg back to the ground, then step your right foot down. Alternate legs to make one rep.

4. Hip Extensions

Like lunges, hip extensions can be performed anywhere and without equipment. The key to this movement is positioning your weight so that your butt does the brunt of the work, not your legs. On your hands and knees, you’ll focus the main effort in your glutes and lower back without involving your hamstrings. Tighten your core and squeeze your butt to lift one leg toward the ceiling, keeping the 90 degree bend and flexing your foot so you’re reaching with your heel as you raise your thigh in line with your spine. Keep the movement slow and controlled to the top and then back down again.

5. One-Legged Deadlifts

One-legged deadlifts do triple duty, activating your muscles for a highly effective toning session that works your butt, hamstrings, and lower back. Holding a kettlebell/dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet hip width apart, knees soft. Keeping your weight firmly on your left leg, lean forward from your hips, reaching the dumbbells toward your left foot and raising your right leg out behind you. Remember to keep your core tight and not round your back. Now stand straight, squeezing your glutes as you come back to start. Do a full series of reps before switching to your right leg for the second half of the set.

In case you’re not an active client, of either our classes or personal training, we cover all of these great exercises and much more. Call today for more information!

Committed to Your Health & Fitness,

Jennifer Adams

Why do I need to eat before I exercise?

24 Aug

This article, written by my former favorite UC Davis Nutrition professor,  Dr. Liz Applegate, explains the reasons as to why it is so important to eat something before you workout.  Even if you exercise early in the morning, try to eat a piece of fruit, toast, oatmeal a few minutes before you start to sweat.  You will see a remarkable difference in your energy level, which means more calorie burning!

 Eat Smart Before Exercising

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